“This year may well be remembered as the year of the peacock, for the spotlight fell upon men’s wear, and such name designers as John Weitz and Bill Blass decked out the American male in brighter plumage than he had sported in many a decade. Women’s fashions, on the other hand, became softer and more romantic, and shorter hair styles, curled and cupped to the shape of the head, added to the flattering effect.
This year was a nostalgic costume party. Designers decided women should charm rather than shock (or was it that there was no one left to shock?). The word of the year was romance. A new softness, a sentimental moodiness that was, at the same time, futuristically sleek, a look that seemed long-ago-and-far-away invaded the fashion pages.
The Costume Party. Prerevolutionary Russia was a major theme. There was the Cossack blouse, buttoned down the shoulder and billowy sleeved. Its neckband collar was seen Russianizing dresses and suit jackets (when the large mandarin collar was not lending a Chinese touch). Kremlin coats, steeped in fur and long on the leg, stepped out into the cold with boots, a Cossack’s for hat, and a cuddly muff. And Ukrainian braiding rimmed countless peasant blouses and dresses.
Another theme was safari. In the spring, Dior brought out bush suits, and Yves Saint Laurent, the bush dress. Bush pockets—large patches, flapped and buttoned—popped up everywhere. On the same theme out of Africa were the safari hat, a swaggery-brimmed felt looped under the chin, and the safari bag.
Last year’s polished-brass military costume evolved, under the influence of the hippies, into a World War I look. The flower children ferreted in trunks and army-navy stores to dig out old doughboy jackets, aviators’ coats, and officers’ capes (Paris was flinging on capes at the same time), and accessorized their uniforms with bare feet or combat boots. The uniforms invaded fashion. The accessories did not.
The flourishes and fineries of a 19th-century dandy attended and conquered the party. Saint Laurent introduced Le Smoking, a black velvet pants suit foaming over with the ruffles and jabot of a white dress shirt. And out of the ” fall collections came his black velvet breeches suit to wear with black stockings and satin dress shoes. In addition, one could parade as a turn-of-the century belle in a skirt of mid-calf length, with frilly blouse and dark narrow boots, or in an immaculately collared shirt dress worn over long dark stockings. ( The shirt was omnipresent this year. It served as a structure for sweaters and as the start of a dress, a pants suit, or a coat; it was as severe and sports-minded as an oxford-cloth button-down, or as frivolous as Le Smoking’s flounce.)
The Fine Romance. The best time to study the new softness *as after five. Metallic vinyls, scissored for a space girl, gave way to satins, laces, and Victorian velvets. The girl who spent last New Year’s Eve in a silver-spangled T-shirt dress was set for Christmas in something like Donald Brooks’ inspiration, the tea dress, a ruffles-and-ripples organza charmer.
The Shape of Things. Spring brought in a fashion switch long awaited by men—the waist returned. One almost wondered if it had disappeared through disuse, but it was unmistakably there. Dresses with belts surprisingly close to the waist appeared.
Short-jacket suits showed up featuring chunky little jackets perched on kiltish pleats or a light touch of dirndl. The perch was the waist, accented by skirts that were fuller than they had been in years. There were long-jacket suits, too, that hugged the bodice, concaved at the waist, and flared over the skirt.
The rediscovery of the middle region was celebrated by a belt binge. By fall the most common belting place was the waist. But chain belts were draped on top of the hips, and leather or satin sashes were crushed and tied on the rib cage.
The sight of that sash must have sparked the remembrance of decolletage, because suddenly nighttime neck-lines took a dive and “low cut” was getting the edge on “cut out.”
Perhaps because so much was changing in shape, color was played down. The most significant shades were brown (a rich chocolate or smooth ginger) and black (bringing back the Little Black Dress).
The Leg. But if the mood and shape changed, the look of “short skirts balanced by long legs” continued. The hem’s fall was considered as sure a thing as Niagara’s, but fashion defied gravity for another year. The legs became as much a fashion point as the skirt, and a woman might plan her day’s turnout from the shoes and stockings up instead of from the dress down. The mini proportion, however, was not unchallenged. Its mid-calf-length alternative, the “midi,” was balanced best by boots. The midi was a mood setter that everywhere cast its shadow of longer skirts to come.
The mini, as some critics pointed out, was a look that could be less than elegant. But this year women learned how to wear it; they dressed the leg as if it were half the look, and that is exactly what it was.
The fishnet and the newer windowpane textures were more skin than stocking, hut they did dress up the leg, while other textures looked like light leg-sweaters and were set oil by even sturdier shoes than before. Many of the textures were seen in white or black knee socks, to be worn with low-heeled shoes by the younger fashion-game players. In the spring tights took over, a boon to women on the search for stockings long enough for the short skirts. Tights were avidly collected in pale sheers and in opaque brown, black, and navy blue. The end of this dark line was usually matching patent-leather shoes (appropriate all year round). The total-leg concept reached its apex in body paint—bold colors that substituted for stockings—and in stretch vinyl stocking-high boots.
As fall went into winter, the opaque tights became sheerer and shoes took to a higher, though still stalwart, heel. To make the long leg even longer, Roger Vivier reviled the platform soles of the 1940’s. (While in the mood of that decade, he buckled on some ankle straps as well.)
The other way to solve the short-skirt situation was by dressing in pants. Culottes went to the city, even to the office this year, with a suit jacket, or as a jumpdress. Short pants—Bermuda shorts but newly narrow—were worn the same way but did not make it to work, and pantelets were seen peeking out from under mini dresses. Long pants suits continued, with the happy modification of longer, more flattering jackets. The best of these looked tailor-made, what Saint Laurent’s dandy might have worn during the day.
Hardware. Accessories were the one rough edge in all the softness. The clink-clank movement had started innocently enough: Instead of a zipper hidden discreetly in the back of a dress, a giant industrial zipper blazed down the front. Then it appeared on coats, suits, gloves, and shoulder bags. Meanwhile, back at the hardware store, designers were buying chaining to belt dresses, suit jackets, coats, gloves, and shoes. Hinges and suitcase locks were borrowed as closures for clothes. (Buttons were boring.) Chains were even slung on the wide-brimmed felt Garbo hat, which competed with the safari hat and knitted cloches reminiscent of the 1930’s. (Hats were back—when they were amusing or part of the “costume.”)
Hardware was also the chief reason that accessory shopping was so significant this year. Getting dressed was like working with an all-star cast; everything was a potential scene stealer. There was hardly a shoe without a button or a buckle or a bit of metal. Belts were hardware. Even when they were suede or leather, they snaked through chaining, and silver buckles flashed on many fabric belts. Bags were plated with mirrorlike metal, closed with the heftiest of locks, and slung from the shoulder on chaining. The newest resembled small satchels.
Jewelry became bigger and brighter to keep up with the glitter on everything else. There was a run on real coral, on fakes that looked like the most lavish genuine articles, and on obvious fakes in papier-mache and lucite. The quiet watch was forsaken for a huge-faced square or circle broadly banded in neon, plaids, or prints. Even sunglasses went the hardware way, with thin metallic frames and lenses tinted amber, pale blue, or yellow. And what was seen through them, as the year ended, was a fashion swing to the late twenties, early thirties, to a Scott Fitzgerald, anyone-for-tennis look, to slouchy Garboesque sweaters. The costume party, it seemed, was continuing into 1968.
The “small head” returned in hair style fashions. Hair, long or short, was arranged so that the shape of the head was obvious. Curly hair, from tiny wisps all over the head to large loopy curls, was more in evidence, and styles were more face-flattering and less severe than they have been in several years.
Early in 1967 many young girls cut their waist-length locks very short. The new style was hair 2 to 3 inches long all over the head, with shaggy points left on the sides and center back. By midyear this trend was evident from coast to coast. Because it was easy to care for and suitable to current fashions, the “small head” became popular with women of all ages. Those women who preferred to keep their long hair, yet wanted a change, purchased short wigs so that they too could enjoy this timely look. Accordingly, wig sales went up.
Permanent waves were given to add body to the halt or to provide tiny ringlets all over the head. Even tight corkscrew curls, reflecting an African influence, gained in popularity. Medium-length hair was also curlier than it has been in many seasons. Springy waves or light swirls added a new softness to blunt-cut hair, which has been straight and smooth in recent years.
Women who left their hair long adapted it for both day and evening “looks.” By day many pulled their hair back into a “George Washington queue.” It was caught in an elastic band at the nape of the neck, and the ends were turned under and attached to the nape with tiny bobby pins. Often a colorful bow covered the elastic band. With this attractive yet simple style, even long hair gave the illusion of the “small head”
Hairpieces were still used extensively for evening wear In some instances, long “falls,” curled at the ends, added volume. Wiglets set in long loopy curls were attached to the crown of the head, while separate curls were used to cascade down the back in more elaborate evening styles, These styles lay close in the front and on the sides, with most of the bulk at the back of the head. Even then, however, the overall appearance of the head was not large —its natural shape was still obvious.
Hair coloring was made to look as natural as possible. However, there was a tendency toward warmer shades, Red highlights, as opposed to drab tones, were more sought after in 1967. The all-one-color artificial look was passe.
In reviewing fashions, one naturally compares the men’s with those of the distaff side, and the changes and action in men’s fashion in 1967 made women’s wear seem to come to a standstill. Innovations were rapid and numerous, and general acceptance widespread.
“Mod” became a dirty word, bringing to mind those who had jumped on the bandwagon with little or no thought and had melded their own bad taste with the worst of mod, There was already enough bad taste in both areas to insure a bomb at the retail level—and bomb there was. How-ever, if nothing else can be said in its favor, the explosion served to awaken a complacent industry, which had adhered for too many years to a backward-thinking, why-try-anything-new? philosophy.
The name designer, thanks to Pierre Cardin and John Weitz, both of whom gained recognition last year, came into his own, and the growing roster of those branching into men’s wear included Oleg Cassini, Hardy Amies, Bill Miller, Ken Scott, Valentino, Phillipe Venet, Arocle Datti, Dick Holthaus, and, most recently, Bill Blass. Sooner than one thinks, a man might well inquire of another, “Who designed your suit?” rather than “Where did you buy it?”
Some American men finally learned what the Europeans have always known—shaped styling is the most flattering silhouette for any size. Suits, jackets, and even outercoats became slightly broader in the shoulder, more nipped in at the waist, often with a slight flare in the skirt of the coat or jacket; trousers and slacks were tapered. American men also perked up their daily lives with lighter, brighter colors and bolder, braver patterns—prominent plaids, definitive stripes, and giant windowpane checks. Furnishings and accessories went along with the “big change.” Colorful shirts in both solids and distinctive patterns became de riqueur for the fashionable gentleman, and the 3 1/2 to 4-inch cravat heralded the demise of the ultrathin tie. To provide the necessary balance, hat brims became slightly larger and shoes grew wider and heavier looking.
Most radical were the changes in evening clothes. Designers experimented freely and gave a fresh, new look to formal attire—and a needed impetus to the wearing of evening dress, a practice which had been on the decline.
All manner of attire began to appear at the “swinging” discotheques and nightclubs, as well as at the “in” private parties and charity functions. Knit turtleneck sweaters were worn with tuxedos. White pants striped in black silk were paired with black dinner jackets. Endless variations of the formal shirt sans jacket “made the scene” from Palm Beach to Palm Springs. Velvet, in rich greens, browns, clarets, blues, and black, was not considered a novelty fabric for men’s dinner clothes. Even an occasional male in a caftan or jelabba was observed.”
Compiled from period encyclopedias, yearbooks and catalogs subject to fair use or public domain. My own edited versions of public domain material including edited images is protected by copyright.